Band breakups are as much rock and roll tradition as drugs and trashing hotels. Some groups go on hiatus only to get back together within months while others make the permanent split. Forever is a long time and the lure of money and one last shot of fame often reunites bands more often than not.
Why do bands break up? Sometimes it’s jealousy (one member stealing the spotlight), straight up fighting or money distribution. For a band to never get back together it has to be bad, so bad that even money can’t make it happen. Some bands have successfully split and made up to finish out their legacy (and get paid), others have made attempts only to falter, realizing why they split in the first place. The success stories include the Eagles, Black Sabbath and Motley Crue.
Bands like KISS don’t qualify because their two primary members (Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley) have lasted the duration. Also, Van Halen. Bringing David Lee Roth back solidified the reunion; they didn’t need Michael Anthony and his Jack Daniels guitar back in order to call it a reunion.
The bands on this list have deeply rooted problems or motivated reasons to not get back together. Some may sound petty, but unless one side gives in (rock stars are notoriously stubborn) negotiations are not likely to occur. Still, you never know, right? Wrong. It’s pretty set in stone with these bands, even the band of brothers. Don’t expect these 10 bands to reunite. Ever.
10 Guns N’ Roses
As a starting point, even if Axl Rose and Slash agreed to get back together, that would only start years of negotiation before you could see the two of them on stage together. That’s how much baggage there is with this band. The Most Dangerous Band in the World, Guns N’ Roses busted out with their 1987 release Appetite For Destruction and followed with an EP and double album, the latter debuting at number one and two on the charts. After the Use Your Illusion tour, the band was already estranged; still they started work on their next album titled Chinese Democracy. Some members were fired, others left and in the end only Axl Rose was left in the band still called Guns N’ Roses. Despite the interviews and biographies we still don’t know exactly what went wrong between Axl and Slash (other than knowing one of them is “difficult” to work with), but without the two of them, there is no reunion.
9 Stone Temple Pilots
Here’s a case of a band that has really tried to make it work and now they finally know, it just isn’t meant to be. Again, the conflict begins with the lead singer, Scott Weiland. Ever since the release of their second album the relationship between Weiland and the rest of the band was strained, mostly due to Weiland’s drug shenanigans and general unavailability. After several “hiatuses” the band officially split after their sixth studio album. Weiland joined super group Velvet Revolver which he eventually left (or was fired from) as well. The band came back and recorded another album and toured. After, the band broke up again, and this time it was more bitter, and final. Without Weiland, the band recruited Chester Bennington (Linkin Park) as vocalist and bad mouthed Scott to the press. Last heard there was pending suits and countersuits awaiting a rock and roll arbitrator.
8 The Smiths
A big part of the British rock movement of the eighties, The Smiths continued to dominate well into the nineties. Morrissey and Johnny Marr were the primary members, both influenced by punk and pop; however, both with different outlooks and methodologies on music. Morrissey didn’t really want to be a rock star; instead he wanted to be some mix of Jim Morrison and a college poetry class. On the other hand, Marr was a straight up rock and roller, who applied great detail to his guitar playing. Together there was a lot of friction, the type of bumping heads that produces magic, but also, over time wears on all parties involved. Eventually, a frustrated Marr left the band and Morrissey disbanded The Smiths. Marr went on to continue playing guitar for a number of acts while Morrissey went off to sing sixties pop which is all he ever wanted in the first place.
7 The Talking Heads
It’s hard to create a band with your vision and keep everyone happy without stepping on toes or “taking all the credit and money.” David Byrne and the Talking Heads had this problem. The MTV friendly Talking Heads were a big deal from the early eighties into the early nineties. This band was unique in that it had street credit (coming from the New York City scene with Blondie, Television and the Ramones) as well as mainstream credit with the youth through their invigorating videos. Tensions over musical direction and solo projects lead this group to call it quits. Definitely a case of a group realizing they can do no more and going out on top, with no motivation to get back together.
I’m pretty sure R.E.M. created “college radio” with their brand of alternative rock. The band started in 1981, working many years before they saw the major success associated with the band. By the time the band had gotten big, tensions were already high. Monster, R.E.M.’s third consecutive album (that would go quadruple platinum) produced a tour that was plagued with injuries and illness. Soon after Bill Berry would leave the band. Michael Stipe and R.E.M. continued on as a three-piece band with some critical success, but limited commercial success, at least compared to what they had become accustomed to. In September 2011, R.E.M. broke up. It had been years of build up with other solo projects and the need to experiment with others that made it an amicable break for all involved.
5 Rage Against The Machine
No one told this band not to talk politics at the kitchen table, in fact, Rage Against the Machine were as political as it gets in the nineties. They also played music, a mix of hard rock, funk, punk and rap delivered by Zack de la Rocha. Tom Morello was De la Rocha’s right hand man, matching his angry lyrics and delivery with heavy guitars. Rage grew in popularity with their song “Killing in the Name” and presence at political rallies. During the late nineties and into 2000 it seemed as if this band was everywhere there may have been an injustice occurring. Is was great for a band to create visibility, but with the protests also came riots and arrests (remember bass player Tim Commerford climbing the stage during the MTV Video Music Awards?) Apparently, enough was enough and after their album Renegades was released Zack de la Rocha announced he was leaving the group. The reason, it’s not a good one: communication breakdown. That’s typically code for “knife in the back.” The band would get back together for a reunion tour and talk about another album, but there has just been talk and re-issues of older material. In 2011 some of the members of the band confirmed that is was over and they just wanted to get on with their lives.
4 The White Stripes
Honestly, does Jack White have too many projects going on? At one point wasn’t he in four bands? Not sure if it was four, but it’s no surprise that he would eventually move on. Jack and Meg, a divorced couple who pretended to be brother and sister, started off as a true garage band and went on to win several Grammy Awards. Despite Meg’s known “acute anxiety” that canceled their 2009 tour, the band continued to put out music and perform. The band continued to grow each album, adding additional layers and instruments while maintaining their core garage sound. Then in 2011 Jack White announced that the band was done and there would be no way they would ever reunite. When asked why, he cited that he didn’t want the status of the band in limbo and instead made the definitive decision to end The White Stripes.
A brotherly rivalry is one thing, but Noel and Liam Gallagher seem to generally dislike each other. Whether you loved them (as many did) or hated them (as many did), Oasis was one of the biggest bands of the nineties, selling millions of albums. It’s actually pretty amazing the Gallagher brothers stayed together as long as they did. Just look at their first U.S. tour; frustrated with Liam, Noel quit and went home. Fighting and interrupted or cancelled gigs were the norm as well as arrests and brawls (some resulting in loss of several of Liam’s teeth). Still, the band put out several albums and continued to tour, although their commercial success dipped with each release. Finally, in 2009 everything came to an end when Liam smashed Noel’s guitar backstage. Noel decided he could not work with Liam for one more day and left. Since Noel has gone on to do his own thing with Liam trying to keep the Oasis name, hoping to again perform live - just not any of Noel’s songs.
2 Led Zeppelin
Even with their drummer gone, getting Robert Plant, Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones on stage would be a true miracle. Their music was so important in the seventies that new rock bands coming up now still cite Zeppelin as an influence. After John Bonham died in 1980, Plant went solo and Page formed the super band, The Firm. Led Zeppelin have reunited on a number of occasions and Plant and Page even put out an album together. In 2007 all surviving band members played a tribute concert with Jason Bonham (John’s son) on drums. This was probably the last show for the members who have shown little reason to ever perform together again. Write it off to age, success in their careers away from Zeppelin or out of respect for Bonham. Either way, don’t hold your breath waiting for this reunion.
Genesis is the rare band that was huge as a group and spawned even bigger careers for individual members after they left. Both Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins have gigantic solo careers away from the band that gave them their initial success. Gabriel departed in 1975 and then Collins took over lead duties for the next 20 years. So if the band got back together and both Gabriel and Collins stepped up to the microphone at the same time, well, it could be a little uncomfortable. In 1991 the band released their final album before Collins finally called it quits. In 2007 the band did reunite, but without Gabriel which to me isn’t a full band reuniting, it’s more like Van Halen dumping Dave and touring with Sammy, again.